LITITZ, Pa. — On an early morning in Lancaster County, central Pennsylvania, geothermal aficionados from nine states and Canada jammed a wide assortment of HVAC trucks and vans into a field at the Oregon Dairy near this town of a few thousand people. The regular tourists showed up a few hours later to visit the combination farm, restaurant, and petting zoo — a popular attraction most days of the week.

But on Aug. 16, several of the pastures doubled as hands-on, multi-station outdoor workshops and training for 260 people who attended the sold out GeoDay event sponsored by ClimateMaster® Geothermal Heat Pump Systems.

Richard Gibson, ClimateMaster Northeast residential manager, and Joe Fish, Mid-East region district manager, were the primary organizers of the event. Gibson said his team was a bit overwhelmed as the event, the first ever of its type in the region, had sold out. Attendance reflected a fairly even split between newcomers and old timers from the world of geothermal.

Ben Zaiger traveled from Waynesboro, Pa., to get his first major indoctrination. “My brother has been working in geothermal for a while but this is much newer for me,” said Zaiger. Four years ago, Matthew Zaiger started Zaiger Mechanical based in Boswel, Pa. Brother Ben got an earlier start in business with Zaiger Services, based in Waynseboro, but has not had much training in geothermal. Both were very appreciative of the GeoDay experience. The two were guests of Robert Leap, manager of sales and training for Aepcor Inc., a Somerset, Pa.-based geothermal distributor.

“Aepcor sells only geothermal equipment,” explained Leap. “So, our efforts are focused exclusively on helping our dealer customers improve their familiarity and proficiency with all facets of the technology. We’re based in an older hydronics area, so our customers do a lot of commercial and residential water-to-water geothermal installations — maybe 35 to 40 percent. The ClimateMaster event was terrific for me, and our dealers.”

Luke Mask, of Fredericktown, Md., said his first geothermal installation was 25 years ago. “There was not much training available when I started working in geothermal. Some of this I could probably teach to others,” Mask said with a wry smile. “But, I attend something about twice a year in order to keep up with all the changes in the technology. Things are moving rapidly. That’s why I’m here,” said Mask.

Practical Applications

District Manager Mike Murphy, another ClimateMaster employee present to help with the event, said, “The most common problem we find is that contractors often rely too heavily upon the driller to determine the loop length.”

Gibson chimed in on that note when he said, “Perhaps half of the attendees are not familiar with geothermal loop systems. We would rather the contractor understand loop sizing, and play a key role in determining that critical part of the geothermal system design. This is mainly a loop training event. Many of the other farm events in our ClimateMaster series include a Geo 101 class, but we wanted to devote most of our training to the trenching, drilling, pond loop application, load-sizing, and geo equipment.”

Amid all the sometimes head-spinning technical training, practical advice is very much appreciated. Sean Hogan, a ClimateMaster trainer who came in from the Seattle area for the GeoWeek event, told attendees of the Pond Loop and Flushing session a story that made the corners of their mouths go up as did their eyebrows.

“When you go home at night or for the weekend, please be sure to close up any of your open loops that you have been working on. Why? Because it takes a very strong flush cart to get a Matchbox™ car out of a pipe! It’s what little boys do when they find open pipes on a construction site. You will find cars, rocks, dirt. You name it, and kids will find a way to cram it inside your pipes. I know — I was one of those little boys. Save yourself some time and effort and close up those pipes at night,” said Hogan.

During the event in Lancaster County, attendees moved between six hands-on work stations, rotating between them in one-hour intervals. According to Fish, the workstations included:

• Pond Loop: Loop installations were demonstrated on the farm’s pond. At this station, audience members explored all facets of underwater heat exchangers.

• Vertical Loop: Demonstrations were given of an air-drive rig, bore hole drilling, loop insertion, and grouting.

• Horizontal Boring: Trainers demonstrated all elements of the horizontal boring process. Operators used a medium-size boring machine to show how to bore a hole, track the path from above, and then insert and grout the loop.

• Products/new equipment technology: ClimateMaster’s newest and emerging technology was on display, and operational. Attendees asked questions about equipment, capabilities, and troubleshooting.

• Horizontal Loop: Horizontal trenching is a popular geoexchange method used in many designs. Various types of trenching and pipe fusing were demonstrated.

Attendees also learned about ClimateMaster’s loop design software, GeoDesigner. The program is a sophisticated yet intuitive tool for sizing units and heat exchange fields. The software also helps to demonstrate operating costs for potential customers. John Bailey, ClimateMaster vice-president of sales, said, “If you have any ideas let us know. It is very critical for us to listen to what you have to say. Without you, we have no shot at being successful.”

In his introductory comments, Bailey noted that the first GeoFarm event started with Corken Steel, a distributor that covers the tri-state area of northern Kentucky, southern Ohio, and eastern Indiana. Seven
ClimateMaster-sponsored geothermal training events are taking place during 2012 as part of the series. They include Blackstone, Va., with Virginia Air; GeoRanch in New Waverly, Texas, with Looptech; GeoRanch in Snohomish, Wash., with Thermal Supply; GeoExpo in Medina, Ohio, with Wolf Brothers Distributing; GeoDay in Shaumburg, Ill., at Comfortech with Penton Media; the GeoFarm in Aurora, Ind., with Corken Steel; and the GeoWeek event in Lititz.

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Publication date: 10/1/2012